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Silver Alerts can help IHSS clients who go missing

Do you know what a Silver Alert is? It’s like an Amber Alert, but instead of a warning system for missing children, it alerts law enforcement, media and the public when a senior or a person with developmental disabilities or cognitive impairment goes missing.

As caregivers, many of our clients or loved ones fit that description, so UDW members have been at the forefront of statewide efforts to ensure the safety of vulnerable people like the ones for whom we care. This year, we sponsored a bill, SCR 64, that designated September 2017 as Silver Alert Community Education Month.

On September 22, our Stanislaus County members hosted a community event in Ceres to raise awareness of this important program. Speakers from law enforcement and other advocates for vulnerable adults explained the history and criteria of the Silver Alert and how caregivers like our members can play a crucial role in Silver Alert situations.

“As home care providers, you are instrumental in the reporting of a missing person under your care,” said Capt. Julian Irigoyan of the California Highway Patrol. “You could provide valuable information to the public which, if disseminated to the public, could assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.”

Jewell Kee, of the Alzheimer/Dementia Support Center, gave examples of missing people who were found with a Silver Alert. She also shared tragic examples of people who perhaps could have been saved had a Silver Alert system been in place and issued—and why this issue is so important to caregivers.

“Our greatest fear… is that our loved ones will wander out of the house and be gone forever,” Kee said.

State Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, author of SCR 64, pointed out how programs like the Silver Alert help people work together quickly. “Coordination is essential when it comes to locating missing loved ones,” Galgiani said. “When we all work together in a collaborative effort we will certainly obtain the best outcomes possible.”

There were some important takeaways from the event for caregivers. Though the decision on whether or not to issue a Silver Alert is made by law enforcement on a case-by-case basis, our members learned that there are important ways for caregivers to be proactive.

Here’s what you can do in case a client or loved one goes missing:

  • Keep a recent photo of your client with you or on your phone
  • Contact local law enforcement and report your missing person
  • Be sure to give a detailed description, including their age and any developmental or cognitive disabilities they may have
  • And, when you see a Silver Alert online, share it on your social media accounts like Facebook. The more people who share the alert, the more likely it is that your loved one will be found safe.

Our Executive Vice President Astrid Zuniga, who cares for her adult son with autism and has been a tireless advocate for protections for people with developmental and cognitive disabilities, shared the very personal reasons why we work to improve and expand services like the Silver Alert program: our loved ones and clients.

“He’s why I do what I do,” she said.